Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Joey Cheek Is A Class Act

It's hard not be proud of Greensboro native Joey Cheek's recent rise to the top of the speed skating world. It's impossible not to be proud of the classy way he has handled the spotlight after winning the gold in the 500 meters.

The USOC gives $25,000 to American gold medalists, and it took Cheek about three seconds to announce he would donate that prize to an athlete-supported, non-governmental African charity. In addition, Cheek has displayed none of the look-at-me attitude prevalent among many athletes. Instead, he has expressed his gratefulness for his gifts and good fortune.

I spent a little time with Cheek a few months after he won his bronze medal in Salt Lake City in 2002. He was incredibly well grounded, particularly for a guy who had just made a splash in the Olympics. He passed his medal around to anyone who wanted to hold it (it's heaver than it looks), and he spent time speaking with anyone who wanted to chat. He was particularly kind to small children.

Hopefully, Cheek can add to his medal stash in the 1,000 and 1,500 meters. But even if he falls on his face, I am sure he will handle the disappointment with as much class as he has his victories.

By the way, NBC deserves a raspberry for waiting a full day to show Cheek's medal ceremony.


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